Directed by Yasuharu Ishii/Starring Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shun Oguri, Shota Matsuda, & Tsuyoshi Abe/ Music by Yamashita Kosuke/Based on the manga by Yoko Kamio
In pursuit of her dreams (and her parents’), Makino Tsukushi is attending the prestigious Eitoku Academy. Unfortunately, the high school isn’t exactly what she had expected. Because of their families’ power and money, four young men–styling themselves the F4–essentially dominate the school, including the teachers. All Makino wants is to lead a quiet high school life . . . so naturally, she manages to let her strong sense of justice get her on the wrong side of F4’s leader, Domyouji Tsukasa. Just when Domyouji is making Makino’s life unbearable, another member of the F4, Hanazawa Rui, steps in like a knight in shining armor to save the day. Of course, Makino falls for him. And just when her life couldn’t get any more complicated, Domyouji decides that he actually likes this gutsy girl?! Will Makino ever be able to graduate smoothly or have a reasonable love life?
I found Hana Yori Dango to be quite an intense emotional roller coaster–and I loved it! The story is full of drama, with lots of complicated relationships and emotions. If it were American, it would be a cheesy soap, and I would hate it; the Japanese writers and actors pull it off beautifully. The story is based on the manga of the same name by Yoko Kamio, which I haven’t read yet. As for the actors, they were brilliant in their portrayal of the characters. Of course, the reason I watched this to begin with is that Shun Oguri was playing the part of Hanazawa Rui, which he did wonderfully–my favorite character in the story and the one character I cried for. But the actors for Tsukushi (Mao Inoue) and the rest were also well done. I think Jun Matsumoto in particular did a brilliant job with Domyouji, who is a difficult character to get across. Regarding the other F4 members, they seemed relatively colorless for most of the first season, but as Makino became more involved in the group, they fleshed out their characters a lot and really grew on me. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack–it fit well and was pleasant to listen to. All in all, I’d recommend Hana Yori Dango if you enjoy romantic dramas and don’t mind watching subtitles (or if your Japanese is just that good).
Note: This is a Japanese drama TV series. The first season comprises 9 episodes, the second, 11 episodes. The series is completed in a final movie special.